Perhaps surprisingly, Arizonans who support sexual and reproductive rights don’t face as many barriers as their counterparts in other states, according to a study released Wednesday.
Arizona, a conservative state, ranked 16th in the nation, according to a state-by-state ranking compiled by three liberal advocacy groups that analyzed state laws dealing with gay rights, access to health care and abortion.
New York and New Mexico shared the top ranking, based on a point system that penalized states for policies unfavorable toward sexual and reproductive rights. South Dakota, which recently passed a near-ban on abortion, tied with Ohio for the most restrictive state. Delaware tied with Arizona at 16th.
“I’m not surprised by the ranking, because I think it’s reflective of Arizona’s general population and how they feel about these personal issues,” said Amy Kobeta, director of public affairs for the Arizona Human Rights Fund and Foundation. “I think the ranking is surprising, considering how extremely conservative our Legislature is.”
Kobeta said state lawmakers’ views on abortion and gay rights do not represent the opinions of Arizonans as a whole, whom she believes are more tolerant than many of their leaders.
Most efforts to gauge state positions on such socially divisive topics stick to one theme, but the ranking released Wednesday by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and two abortionrights groups, Ipas and the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective look at two hot-button issues in hope of encouraging new alliances between gayrights and abortion-rights groups.
Leili Hessini, a senior policy analyst of Ipas, said the study shows that when it comes to such rights, “South Dakota has more in common with Afghanistan than Oregon.”
Arizona’s ranking might not hold up if efforts are successful to pass an amendment to ban same-sex marriages and restrict rights for domestic partners. A petition drive seeks to place a question on the November ballot dubbed “Protect Marriage Arizona,” which would ask voters to ban same-sex marriage and eliminate domestic partner rights.
The effort faces a July 6 deadline to collect a minimum of 183,917 signatures to get the question on the ballot. So far, the petition drive has “a long way to go,” said Protect Marriage Arizona spokesman Nathan Sproul. He refused to say how many signatures have been collected so far.
Other laws to restrict abortion were passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature this year, but were vetoed by Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat. The study only ranks states based on current laws.
Melissa Fink, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern Arizona, said Arizona’s ranking doesn’t necessarily reflect the political climate here.
“All it takes is the governor not having veto power, and we could have been number 40-something,” Fink said.
States were scored cumulatively based on 25 different laws, ranging from restrictions on abortion to recognition of same-sex partnerships to the availability of emergency contraception. Groups said the rankings show sharp discrepancies among states.
“Now we have genderbased segregation where what rights you have depends on what state you live in and they form a matrix of obstacles that all our families face,” said Loretta Ross, national coordinator at Sistersong. “At least we have one way of seeing what we’re up against in those states.”
- The Associated Press contributed to this report